Josie's NaNoWriMo Tips

In honor of National Novel Writing Month, I Give Advice to Aspiring Authors

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Day 1 Tip: 

Treat Writing As If It's Already Your Career

Listen as I explain why—

And also, what sort of tips I'll be giving you.

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Day 2 Tip:

Why You Should Outline Your Plot

Why "pantsing" is a time suck.

Don't know what pantsing is? Listen up!

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Day 3 Tip:

When Is the Right Time to Write?

Best time of day? Must you be in the mood?

Here's how I suggest you handle your time—and your muse.

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Day 4 Tip:

Meet Your Word Count First; Edit It Later.

Tip #4 Never forget the ultimate goal:

moving words from your head to the page.

Here's how to do it without getting caught in
self-doubt or second-guessing.

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Day 5 Tip:

Meet Your Word Count First; Edit It Later.

Snappy dialogue. Snarky asides. Anger. Heartfelt revelations. All of these expressed emotions make scenes come alive, and make your readers laugh with -- or more importantly, fall in love with -- your characters.  

Can you channel your inner Arthur Miller?

You betcha!

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Day 6 Tip:

Use Your Protagonist's Backstory.

But now that it's time to give his hero something to do, the writer stalls out. Why does this happen?

 

Because in this case, the backstory is the story.

 

So why not move it front and center?

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Day 7 Tip:

Keep Writing - and Edit Afterward

Both my husband and I have broadcast backgrounds. One very important lesson we learned in those previous gigs serves us well when we're editing text articles or, in the case of National Novel Writing Month, novels:

 

Should you feel something isn't working on your project, you can always fix it later—what broadcasters call "post-production." Here's why.

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Day 8 Tip:

Why Every Story Needs A Beginning,
A Middle And An End

You can't just presume that your wonderful characters will carry the book to the end. You must give them a purpose: actions that have conflict and a resolution. Here's how:

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Day 9 Tip:

What To Do When Your Story Is Boring

You'd rather be flossing your teeth than making your word quota.

 

This is not a good sign. It means that your story is so boring that even you can't bear to be around it.

If you wake up to find that you've been drooling on your monitor, it's time to put on the brakes.

Yep, you heard me: I want you to start over.

Here's why—and how:

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Day 10 Tip:

The day got away from you. You're late with your words.

And you're too tired to write.

Should you just skip it?

HECK. NO. Here's why.

Better late than never.

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Day 11 Tip:

Why the Point-of-View You Choose Matters

When it comes to fiction, there is no norm for the  point of view an author chooses for their story, for a very good reason:

 

Sometimes the story needs to be told from many points of view, or in "third person." 

So, how do you decide? Rule of thumb: you do what's best for the reader. Here's how you know that answer.

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Day 12 Tip:

Avoiding "Paragraph Paralysis"

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You've put your protagonist in a corner, and he's surrounded by bad guys in every direction.

 

Worse yet, you're stuck — both literally and creatively.  This is what I call "paragraph paralysis."  Like your hero, you've come to a complete stop.

Here's how you (and he--or her, as the case may be) can get out of that hole.

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If your main character—hero or heroine— isn't engaging to you, trust me: he won't hold his own with readers, either.

Like you, readers love protagonists who are smart, fun, fearless, and flawed enough that they aren't (in Mary Poppins-ology) practically perfect in every way. (My god, think how boring that would be?)

Here's how to make your protagonist someone who'll have readers turning the pages.

.

 

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Day 13 Tip:

It's a trick question: creative writing is both a craft and an art.  Listen to here why.

Day 14 Tip:

Is Writing a Craft, or an Art?

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Day 15 Tip:

Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Writing?

The best writers do it all the time: they doubt themselves, and that their stories will resonate with readers. You may be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, but you won't know it if you don't finish your book and show it to the world.

 

Are you self-sabotaging? Here are the signs.

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Day 15 Tip:

Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Writing?

The best writers do it all the time: they doubt themselves, and that their stories will resonate with readers. You may be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, but you won't know it if you don't finish your book and show it to the world.

 

Are you self-sabotaging? Here are the signs.

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Day 16 Tip:

How to Create Depth for
Your Story and its Characters

The best novels have plots that challenge their characters, which makes them more nuanced and engaging. Here's how to create the perfect synergy between both.

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There should be poetry in your writing, It comes with the daily words you strive for during NaNoWriMo: a process that allows you to flex your creative muscles; to find your writing rhythm.

 

Or, in Bagger Vance parlance, your "authentic swing."

Here's how to find it.

Day 17 Tip:

It's not what you say, 
but how you say it.

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Day 18 Tip:

Writing a book isn't a sprint.

It's a marathon. Here's why.

Congratulations! In the past 18 days, you've come SO FAR!

You've gone pens-to-the-wall, sprinting beyond word counts (4,500, 10,000, 30,000) that some of you never thought you'd achieve.

But here's why you should slow down after NaNoWriMo. Trust me: It's wise to do.

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Day 19 Tip:

When its best to consider

who said what, and when.

You've changed the starting point, you’ve fiddled with dialogue, and that didn't help. You've even added a character or two, and noticed that the only effect it had was to slow the pace: 
 

Not good. Instead, try changing who’s saying what — and why.

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Day 20 Tip:

Write like George Clooney Writes:

with confidence.

Writing a novel is a Herculean endeavor. Then there are the additional hurdles of querying agents. My best advice to you: Don't freak out. Instead, be cool. Why? Because, like wolves, agents and editors can smell fear.

 

So, what's the best way to keep your eye on the prize that is worth all your sweat equity Simple. Pretend you're George Clooney.

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Day 21 Tip:

Every word counts. Here's why.

The most chilling scene in the movie based on Stephen King's novel, The Shining, is when the heroine, Shelley Duvall, discovers that all the days her husband, Jack Nicholson, has spent supposedly working on his novel were, in fact, spent writing the phrase  "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over again. 

 

 It's disturbing, not because it proved Jack was possessed, but because all that time and effort produced boring, redundant prose. Talk about SCARY!  Here's how to make every word count:

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Day 22 Tip:

Don't query with a half-baked manuscript.

Now that you're in the last few days of National Novel Writing Month and are feeling great about your word count, I want to give you a gentle reminder that this is just the first draft of your book. 

 

In other words, it's only half-baked.

 

Before you get literary agents and editors to bite, make sure you've done the following to ensure it's as tasty to them as possible.

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Day 23 Tip:

If your dialogue doesn't match the character,

fix it—NOW.

Most novelists have several characters walking around in their heads at any given time. Sadly, not all authors take the time to bring these wonderful imaginary people to life.

 

Where they fail most often is in the words they put in their characters' mouths. Here are three rules to check their tongue-in-cheek.

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Day 24 Tip:

How to keep your story from 
being a turkey.

Over Thanksgiving weekend--yep, NOW!-- more diligent writers will do what they can to double up on their daily word count prior to this holiday. But if you're actually in charge of the feeding frenzy, you may be AWOL the Tuesday and Wednesday of prior to Thanksgiving as well.

 

That said, here are some food for thought to help you stay on track over the weekend.

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Day 25 Tip:

In the era of self-publishing,
do you still need a literary agent?

My thought is this: Yes.

Many of the authors I know feel this way, too. Like me, they would prefer to independently publish their solely owned backlists or novels that have never found homes, or a variety of experimental projects.  At the same time, they still see the advantage of selling to “New York” (where most of the major publishing houses have their offices), which means advances and an opportunity to reach a larger bookstore audience.

 

But to sell to a traditional publisher, they need a literary agent. Here's why: 

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Day 26 Tip:
 

Yes, you can get an agent. Here's how.

When should you start looking for an agent?

That answer is simple: as soon as your novel is ready for the world to see.

At least, the world of agents and editors.

Fair warning: the process won’t be easy. If you’re lucky, it will take weeks. But it also may take many long months.

Don't get discouraged! Here’s what you can do to speed this process along.

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Day 27 Tip:
 

Here are some no-no's to avoid when sending out your query letter to agents.

Even John Grisham sent out 28 query letters before an agent wrote back. There are a lot of things that you can do wrong when sending out yours.

Here's a few of them. 

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Day 28 Tip:
 

Want to get published? Well then,

get out there to see and be seen.

By its nature, writing is an insular activity. You do it by yourself for hours at end.

 

As important as querying is, connecting in person is also key. In other words: NETWORKING.

 

But now that you’re ready to sell your manuscript, you need to know the lay of the land. By this, I mean you must get out of your writing garret and get on the road to publishing. Here’s how:

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Day 29 Tip:
 

Should you consider self-publishing?

Here's when the answer is "Yes."

Despite sending out a hundred query letters, you've never gotten a response to your novel. Or perhaps your book was once published, and you were able to get the rights back to it.

These are perfect examples where self-publishing should be considered. Here's why.

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Day 30 Tip:
 

The best advice I can give you? Simple:

Be the "Last Author Standing."

You've made it! For the past 30 days you've put your heart and soul on paper (digitally) and created a story you hope the world to see. But you've still got a lot to do. Perseverance comes with these three words: "Last Author Standing." It's my mantra. Here's why it should be yours too.

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